President Obama had called the tribal areas of Pakistan “the most dangerous place in the world”. During the years 2010-2012, many Pakistanis living in America were cautious about visiting Pakistan because of the frequent suicide bombings here at the time. The joke in the American-Desi community used to be to turn on the Pakistani news channels to catch up with the latest bomb attack. Now, the world is catching up with the corona deaths especially in America.
Phone calls to Pakistan were usually meant to make sure all friends and relatives were safe. The thought-provoking fact is that now my friends and family in Pakistan are more worried about me being in America than they are about them being in Pakistan. That is a first. Because America is the wealthiest and the most advanced country in the world. Yet, somehow, I am the one living in the most dangerous country right now.
The number of corona deaths in America has surpassed the deaths from the Vietnam War. Pakistan’s corona deaths stand at 327. I argued before and still believe that the Pakistani numbers do not represent the reality. But the real numbers wouldn’t match the American numbers. How does one explain that anomaly?
America is a country led by a President who initially thought this virus was a hoax spun by the Democratic Party to take him down. Later, he made the case that it was actually him who knew all along that this was dangerous. America did not act preemptively, which has been the defining characteristic of the American defence otherwise.
A New York Times investigation revealed that President Trump was given all the warnings about the coming pandemic but he shrugged it off and labelled some of his advisers as alarmists. Last week, he advised people to inject themselves with disinfectants to sanitise their lungs. This mind-boggling suggestion came after he killed a bunch of people around the world by recommending the use of hydroxychloroquine.
President Trump’s lacklustre interest in the pandemic and his conspiracy theory-styled reaction aside, there are other reasons that that make the vulnerable in the American society become victims of the virus. Inequality in America is why it is hit the hardest. Blacks and Hispanics are the worst victims. The wealthiest country has the power to whack countries around the world that the average American may not even be able to find on a map, but it lacks the preparedness and the power to protect its most vulnerable.
While the virus may not penetrate the multiple layers of a mask people have to wear, it has peeled off the layers of American society and laid bare the ugliness underneath. The fact that Blacks and Hispanics are hit the worst in America defies the notion that the virus does not discriminate. The poor are more vulnerable.
Had there been healthcare for all and a true fight against inequality, my friends and family in Pakistan wouldn’t have been worried about me living in the most dangerous country today. The gap between the rich and the poor is only widening. The requiem for the Middle Class is being written in front of our eyes.
What is even scarier is that Americans went on a shopping frenzy for guns. Gun stores are sold out. People even had to drive to other cities or states to ensure they have enough ammunition. The thinking is that if things go south and an apocalyptic Mad Max situation ensued, people should be able to defend themselves. Just imagining the scenario is fearsome. When President Trump blocked immigration for 60 days, it was hailed by the anti-immigrant xenophobic crowd. I hailed it too because it’s a favour to many outside the US who might be safer on the outside.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2020.
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